Week 1: Learning Life Skills using a Morning Routine
I recently read a great article by Elisbeth Stitt who summed up one of my parenting concerns perfectly.
“The early childhood markers of independence–sitting, walking, potty training, etc.–get talked about a lot, but what is reasonable to expect of our older children is not as clear. Just what should our early adolescent/ middle school kids be able to do on their own?”
There are many, many things our kids need to learn to do so they can grow up to be successful, independent adults (like getting dressed on their own, making their bed, tying their shoes, getting their own breakfast, making their own lunch, etc), and The Trip Clip’s morning routine is a great tool to help them master many of those skills.
And the really great part is that by helping your kids learn some of these important life skills, you can simultaneously fix the chaotic, crazy, disastrous mornings you may be having right now. Seriously.
I couldn’t believe the complete 180 our family did after we made morning checklists for our kids, and asked them to take responsibility for getting themselves ready in the morning.
First, our kids (8 and 5 at the time) helped make their lists, which forced us to think through all the things that needed to get done in the morning. The Trip Clip allowed them to easily pick the right tasks for them and add them to their list with a simple click.
They especially liked putting their tasks in the order they wanted. I had no idea that my older son was so annoyed at being asked to get dressed before eating breakfast. So he just clicked and dragged the items into the order that made sense for him. And in that moment, he felt ownership.
My 8-year-old’s list had 14 things on it. No wonder I felt like I was having to keep so much in my head each morning, because I had to remind him to do each of those 14 things. Every morning. And no wonder my kids were having trouble remembering them all by themselves. That’s a lot to keep track of!
Putting the lists in writing also helped us keep track of things that only happen once a week. The Trip Clip lets you edit the text next to any picture, so we could be very specific: “Get water bottle (Mon)” and “Get library books (Thurs)”.
This was more mental clutter that didn’t need to stay in my head – it was right there on the list.
Once the kids had used the lists for a few days, they asked to make changes for things that weren’t quite working for them. One of my kids needed to bring homework every day, but the other only needed to bring it only on Fridays, so we adjusted each of their lists accordingly. I loved that they took responsibility for changing the list so that it was right for them.
As parents, my husband and I try very hard never to do for our kids what they can do for themselves. But it’s easy not to notice when the kids are capable of doing something new that they hadn’t done before.
Making these lists made us realize just how capable our kids are.
At 8 and 5, we fixed their breakfast for them, but we discovered that after that, they could both do almost the entire rest of the list themselves. They got dressed, brushed their teeth, put on their socks and shoes, got their homework, etc., all on their own. Once they knew WHAT to do, the HOW was generally not a problem for them. We did have to check for the occasional backwards shirt, but that was a small price to pay.
And one of my favorite developments was that they would come get us when they were ready to make lunch, or tie their shoes, and needed some help. That was a total switch for us. Instead of yelling at them to come help make their lunch, they started asking us to help them. They took ownership for the things on their list in a way we had not seen before. It was crazy. And wonderful.
We also had the brilliant idea of offering some natural consequences for finishing the list on time.
After some trial and error, we picked a start time for breakfast (the first thing on the list) that left plenty of time to complete the rest of the list. We offered time reminders when we thought they were dawdling, but the incentive we offered made those largely unnecessary. If they finished their entire list early, and checked in with us so we could verify they were truly done, then they could have screen time until we had to leave for school. This offered all the motivation they needed to get their lists done without any yelling.
Putting your child in charge of their own morning routine helps them learn critical life skills. Over time, my kids (now 9 and 12) have learned to do all of these things completely on their own:
- Pick out their own clothes
- Get dressed by themselves
- Put on and tie their shoes
- Make sure they have their homework, library books, and anything else they will need for the day
- Feed the cat
- Make their own lunch
- Pack their own snack
- Be ready for school on time every day
And that tells me it’s time for them to learn a new skill! We can always edit their lists to match their new abilities as they grow more capable.